Ten Strategies for Getting into a State of Flow

Excerpt from the forthcoming Evolutionary Coaching (May 2014)

This raises an important question: How do you consciously get and stay in a state of flow? The answer is you don’t. You cannot consciously move into flow, because flow is a gift from the soul that occurs when you surrender to your soul’s desires. Although you can’t switch flow on, you can encourage it by consciously committing yourself to your soul’s purpose and then attempting to implement as many of the following strategies as you can.

  •  Become unbelievably adaptive.
  • Surrender to the process.
  • Never trick yourself into believing you have the best answer.
  • Be at ease with what is.
  • Focus on what is in front of you.
  • Be at ease with uncertainty.
  • Try to include everything.
  • Consider the whole system.
  • Stick to your values.
  • Follow your passion.

 Become unbelievably adaptive: Let go of any idea of the way things have to be. These are just your assumptions. Whatever wants to emerge and energetically feels right is the right thing to do. Focus on what you have energy for, and let go of anything that does not spark your juices. Go with your inspiration. The most successful people and companies are unbelievably adaptive. They are not attached to their idea of how things have to be. These people have self-transforming minds. They are constantly reinterpreting reality. The map of the world they use for meaning-making is always a work in progress.

Surrender to the process: This is hard at the beginning, especially when it means letting go of things that you identify with. I have let go of relationships, homes, and even being CEO of my own company. Letting go is a hard thing to do. In many situations it is only by letting go do that you find the freedom to do what you need to do. You have to surrender to your soul if you want to fulfill your destiny and experience fulfillment. In this situation, surrender does not represent defeat. It represents growth and most importantly, victory over fear.

Never trick yourself into believing you have the best answer: Forget everything you think you know. It just serves to block your intuition and inspiration. It stops the emergence of new ideas. Knowledge is a two-edged sword. It can be amazingly brilliant at helping you solve problems, and it can be amazingly obstructive in enabling you to think out of the box. What you think you know is a filter you apply to your experience. Always challenge your assumptions/beliefs. I frequently remind myself and even state it in front of others that I don’t know anything. I do this so I can stay open. I know that only when the cup is empty can it be filled. Only when you become a void can you be a channel for things to flow through you.

Be at ease with what is: You always give everything that happens in your life all the meaning it has for you. I know it is hard to believe that everything that happens is neutral. It may feel right or wrong or good or bad, but, from the quantum perspective (a place without judgement), it is what it is. It is nothing other than an event or a situation. As long as you know this, and remind yourself of it, then you are free to examine your feelings and emotions from a place of neutrality. By not judging, you allow the meaning of the event to unfold. So often, I have found that what felt like something bad when it happened, turned out to be something really good. Holding off on your judgement allows you to see through the eyes of wisdom.

Focus on what is in front of you: Do not get distracted from your purpose. When you reach the higher stages of development, you will become recognised as an “influential” person. You will be “someone”. People will want your attention: They will want to enlist your support in their endeavours. This can be a trap for your ego. If you become too distracted, you will lose your way. You must keep your energies focused on your soul purpose and your next immediate priority while allowing yourself quiet time for reflection or meditation so inspiration can flow. Don’t seek the limelight. Choose your friends carefully. Don’t get railroaded into projects that don’t get your juices flowing. Learn to say no. You will know where to put your energies if you allow yourself to be guided by the inspiration of your soul.

Be at ease with uncertainty: Sometimes, the best answer to what seems like a problematic situation is to do nothing. Just standing back and letting the situation unfold with the energies that are driving it can be the perfect thing to do. Allowing things to fall apart can on some occasions be a positive strategy. At other times, intervening in a situation is totally the right thing to do. Knowing whether to intervene or not is a valuable skill that relies on intuition and inspiration. This means there will be times when you consciously decide to live with uncertainty. Being able to stay in a place of uncertainty is impossible if your ego is hanging on to fear. The urge to control what is happening is how the ego creates certainty. To live with uncertainty means detaching from your need to get to an outcome.

Try to include everything: Be incredibly curious. Never stop asking questions. Whenever you are considering ways to solve a problem, always bring into the picture everything that is related in some way, even if the relationship at first appears tenuous. Include the whole system in your inquiry. This is when patterns appear. Unseen patterns are behind everything. You will not be able to find them unless you engage in constant inquiry. Enlist your intuition and inspiration in your search for the truth.

Consider the whole system: Always stay in touch with the big picture. Whatever is going on and whatever issues present, ask yourself: “What are the needs of the whole system?” It is so easy to get stuck in trying to resolve a situation when the situation you are trying to resolve is a symptom of a larger problem. There is always a bigger picture to everything. Everything exists in a framework, and every framework exists inside another framework. There is nothing in our physical world that does not exist within multiple frameworks. What frameworks are you operating in?

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What’s it all about Mr. Prime Minister

Anyone who has ever “lost the plot”—made a wrong turn, got into a messy relationship or simply realized that they are suffering the consequences of making a wrong choice, nearly always finishes up asking the same question. What’s it all about? And the answer is always the same. Values!

Now lift the stakes. What happens when a nation loses the plot, as Iceland did in 2008 when the country went bankrupt? Or in May 2013 in the suburbs of Stockholm, when immigrant led street riots broke out. Not something you would expect in Swedish society. Remember earlier this year, when riots broke out in Venezuela over food shortages; and Brazil, where demonstrators blocked the streets protesting about the vast amounts of money being poured into new football stadiums for the World Cup while millions of people are living in poverty. Go back to the early part of the 20th century when women were demonstrating in the streets so they could get a voice in the governance of their nations. What were all these about? In every case the issue was the same—making the right value choices in governance.

This is the topic that will be discussed at the Spirit of Humanity Forum this week (the Spiritual Equivalent of Davos) when over 200 leaders from around the globe meet in Reykjavik. The theme of the conference is the power of love and compassion in governance—sharing actions for effective change.

Some of the questions being posed to the delegates will be:

  • How can decision-making reflect our core human values?
  • What are the underlying principles that guide values-based decision-making?
  • How can we apply such principles in our institutions?

Key to this discussion will be the how to implement the progression of values that lead to democratic governance: namely, freedom, equality, accountability, fairness, openness, transparency and trust. Whether you are an individual, an organisation, a community or a society, living these values is not easy. Even Iceland, which according to the Economic Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index is the most democratic nation on the planet, got it wrong in 2008.

Nor are the other leading democratic nations well advanced on this journey. Yes, they have installed freedom, and most have made a commitment to equality, but how many have fully embraced accountability and fairness? How many can be considered truly open and transparent, and how many have built a society based on trust. The answer is, not many! So why are these questions not being discussed by our world leaders in Davos? The answer is simple—the majority of our political and finance leaders cannot get their minds off wealth and money. They are mesmerized by the values of power, control and status. At Davos, the self-interest of the elites consistently trumps the common good of humanity.

That is why the Spirit of Humanity Forum is so important for our global future. It provides a much needed counter balance to the limitations of Davos. Its focus is on What are the values we want to live by? What are the values we want to see in our governance systems? And where are love and compassion in this mix?

There is not a single person on the planet who cannot relate to the importance of these values in their lives, so why are our world leaders not talking about them? Why are our national policies not driven and guided by these values? These are just some of the questions we are hoping Reykjavik 2014 will answer.

Building Trust in Your Team: The Trust Matrix

An Exercise for Building Trust (Annex 10 of The Values Driven Organisation)

To build a strong team there has to be a high level of trust. Trust is the glue that holds people together and the lubricant that allows energy and passion to flow.1 Trust builds internal cohesion. The ability to display and engender trust corresponds to the fifth level of personal consciousness. Trust increases the speed at which the group is able to accomplish tasks and takes the bureaucracy out of communication. The principal components of trust are character and competence. See Figure.

Figure The Trust Matrix

Trust Matrix

 

Character is a reflection of how you are on the inside, your intent, and the level of integrity you display in your relationship to others. These depend primarily on the level of development of your emotional intelligence and social intelligence. Intent is demonstrated by caring, transparency and openness; integrity is demonstrated by honesty, fairness and authenticity.

Competence is a reflection of how you are on the outside, your capability, and the results you achieve in your role. These depend primarily on the level of development of your mental intelligence, your education and what you have learned during your professional career. Capability is demonstrated by skills, knowledge and experience. Results are demonstrated by reputation, credibility and performance.

Even though the focus on competence (capability and results) is important, these are skills that can be learned and accumulate over time. I believe the focus on character (intent and integrity) is more important because these qualities are required for bonding and are much more difficult to develop. Competence is about achieving results; character is about how you achieve them.

In The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey states that trust means confidence and the opposite of trust (distrust) means suspicion. In other words, trust breeds connectedness. When we trust someone, we know he or she will have our interest at heart. Suspicion, on the other hand, breeds separation. When we are suspicious of someone, we will not disclose our innermost thoughts. We keep things back. We avoid connecting with someone we do not trust.

Trust reduces cultural entropy: Suspicion increases cultural entropy. Covey puts it this way: “Trust always affects outcomes—speed and cost. When trust goes up, speed will also go up, and costs will go down. When trust goes down, speed will also go down, and costs go up.”3 A 2002 study by Watson Wyatt shows that total return to shareholders in high-trust organizations is almost three times higher than the return in low-trust organizations.4

Bestselling author Francis Fukuyama says, “Widespread mistrust in a ­society … imposes a kind of tax on all forms of economic activity, a tax that high-trust societies do not have to pay.”5 This tax is a reflection of cultural entropy. The following table describes each element of the Trust Matrix in more detail.

Table The components of trust in an organizational setting

The components of trust
Character Competence
Intent Integrity Capability Results
CaringTo look out for the well-being of the organization and all its employees HonestyTo be truthful and frank in all interpersonal communications SkillsTo accomplish professional tasks with ease, speed and proficiency ReputationTo be held in favourable esteem by bosses, peers, subordinates and customers
TransparencyTo be clear about the motivations that lie behind all decision making FairnessTo act without bias, discrimination, or injustice towards all employees KnowledgeTo be very familiar and conversant in a specific topic or subject matter CredibilityTo consistently articulate ideas in a convincing and believable manner
OpennessTo make what is going on in our minds clearly visible to those whom we work with AuthenticityTo be consistent and sincere in thought, word and action in all situations ExperienceTo accumulate practical knowledge through personal observation and experiences PerformanceTo discharge personal responsibilities with accomplishment and excellence

If you want to evaluate the level of trust in your leadership team or any other working team, hold a workshop and ask each member of the team to identify which elements of the Trust Matrix they believe are the strongest and which are the weakest in the way the team operates.

Give every person five points to allocate to the strengths and five points to allocate to the weaknesses—you can use green and red dots for this purpose (green for strengths and red for weaknesses). They can allocate the points in any combination to each of the 12 components of the Trust Matrix. Give them a few moments to think about how to allocate their dots. In a large team, people can work in pairs. As each person or pair declares their allocation of points, they have to explain to the rest of the group why they chose to allocate their points in that particular way. When everyone has placed their dots on the chart, add up the results for the whole team. You will see immediately which elements of the Trust Matrix are most lacking and which elements are most present.

Based on these findings, begin an open dialogue on how to build on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses that the team has identified. At the end of this discussion, ask each member of the team to state which elements of the Trust Matrix he or she is least competent in and what he or she proposes to do to improve. This exercise makes the whole team accountable for improving the level of trust.

Notes

1   Stephen M.R. Covey, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything (New York: Free Press), 2006.

2   The Trust Matrix was developed by Richard Barrett and inspired by the work of Stephen M.R. Covey.

3   Stephen M.R. Covey, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything (New York: Free Press), 2006, p. 13.

4   Ibid., p. 21.

5   Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (New York: Free Press), 2005.